Brandon Mykel Van Den Eykel has a full plate.
While pursuing his master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction at MSUM, he is a full-time elementary music teacher at West Fargo Public Schools and is an instructor for MSUM's Kodály Institute starting this summer.
Kodály at MSUM is a certificate music teachers can earn over the course of three summers and graduate students in the Curriculum and Instruction program can add as an emphasis, as Van Den Eykel chose to do.
As one of the 25 Organization of American Kodály Educators (OAKE) certified Kodály programs in the nation, and by far the most affordable in the region, MSUM's program is unique. Van Den Eykel describes it as an approach to teaching music education in a developmentally appropriate way.
"It is important for students to be actively involved in the music-making process, not simply learning from videos or textbooks," Van Den Eykel says.
In a Kodály-inspired classroom, you’ll likely see students singing, playing games, practicing instruments and using hand signs. According to Van Den Eykel, the Kodály certificate he earned from MSUM in 2021 helped him understand what to teach and when. Not only did it help Van Den Eykel with his teaching, but he found himself growing as a musician.
Van Den Eykel shared that Zoltán Kodály, the Hungarian composer who created the Kodály method, believed that good musicians need to be well-rounded.
"You must have a well-trained heart, a well-trained mind, a well-trained ear and a well-trained hand," said Van Den Eykel.
Connecting with like-minded individuals and growing his network of music educators across the region have become some of Van Den Eykel's favorite aspects of Kodály program.
"As music teachers, especially those of us in the elementary world, often we feel like we are on an island. Oftentimes we may be the only music teacher in our building," he says. "Coming here and spending all day for two weeks together with other music teachers is probably just as valuable as the course itself."
As a current graduate student who is teaching a program he completed just one year ago, Van Den Eykel faced some imposter syndrome at first. However, he looks forward to this summer teaching the program.
"Having the Kodály program in the FM area is an amazing opportunity. Being part of that and helping keep this program alive, and music education in general, means a lot to me."
As a child, Van Den Eykel would teach his siblings and receive presents like teacher stickers and chalkboards for Christmas. Teaching has always been a dream for him. However, it wasn’t until high school when he decided to become a music teacher.
He described himself as a "not-so-special musician" in high school, but his music teachers inspired him when he struggled with identity.
"I felt I could make the most impact as a music teacher," he says.
That eventually led him to MSUM for his bachelor's degree in Music Education, which he received in 2014. Now, he's pursuing his master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction, where his professors continue to shape him as an educator.
"I really value how much the professors in the Curriculum and Instruction program are really thoughtful about how they create assignments to make sure they benefit you."
Van Den Eykel enjoys applying what he learns during the academic year to his work. That hasn’t changed from when he was a Kodály student, and he says the ability to report back each year with questions and ideas is beyond valuable.
In the fall, Van Den Eykel will start a new job as choir director of Discovery Middle School where he'll undoubtedly use what he's learned from his Kodály certificate and the Curriculum and Instruction graduate program.
Applications are still open for this summer’s Kodály Institute. Learn more at https://www.mnstate.edu/academics/graduate/kodaly/.
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